Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

God of Concrete, God of Steel

One of the great things about work is rest! No rest is sweeter than rest following good hard work. With this in mind, I'll be resting from my blogging for the next six weeks. It is hard to believe I've been at it for nearly a year now. Time flies when you're having fun!

But before I sign off, let me share a few more practical thoughts for pastors.

I'm not big on calender-driven sermons (except at Christmas and Easter), but Labor Day weekend is a good time to focus on work. For the past few years, the church Kathy and I attend (Westminster Chapel, Bellevue, WA) has made the Labor Day service a time to focus on the biblical view of work.

Our Labor Day services have not only contained sermons on work, but also special music, congregational singing, and sharing of congregants' experiences in the integration of faith and work.

Music about the work of human hands is not easy to find. One of the most fascinating pieces of music ever to grace one of our Labor Day services is called, God of Concrete, God of Steel. The title itself tells you this is no ordinary song!

It starts out like this:

God of concrete, God of steel,
God of piston and of wheel,
God of pylon, God of steam,
God of girder and of beam,
God of atom, God of mine:
all the world of power is thine.

Lord of cable, Lord of rail,
Lord of freeway and of mail,
Lord of rocket and of flight,
Lord of soaring satellite,
Lord of lightning's flashing line:
all the world of speed is thine.

Words:  Richard G. Jones

(c) 1968 Stainer & Bell, Ltd. (Admin. Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188, www.hopepublishing.com) All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

I'll conclude with three suggestions for sermons on work:

1. Eight sermons by Haddon Robinson, appropriate for a series or as independent messages: http://www.preachingtodaysermons.com/rohabyswofyo.html

2. Larry Peabody's sermon series on Daniel, coinciding with his new book, Job-Shadowing Daniel: Walking the Talk At Work. For more about Larry's book, see http://www.calledintowork.com/resources/. Send Larry a request for information about his "Daniel sermon series" at http://www.calledintowork.com/contact/.

3. More Than A Paycheck, a collection of 24 messages on theology of work, with practical illustrations of faith at work. Includes 50 video clips, 650 PowerPoint slides and the complete speaking notes that I have used when presenting this material myself. Go to http://www.biblicalworldview.com/teach_m_y.html.

See you in September--on Labor Day Weekend!

Friday, July 9, 2010

No Significant Difference Between the Churched and the Unchurched

In Faith @ Work: What Every Pastor and Church Leader Should Know, Os Hillman refers to a survey conducted for The Wall Street Journal by the Gallup Organization which found "no significant difference between the churched and the unchurched in their ethics and values on the job."

Doug Sherman, co-author of Your Work Matters To God, has said, "Our surveys reveal that 90 to 97 percent of Christians have never heard a sermon relating biblical principles to their work life."

I wonder if there might be a connection between those two findings?

One of the problems is that few seminaries offer training courses for pastors in theology of work. While there are some efforts currently underway to change this, the subject of theology of work is on few radar screens in today's seminaries.

So where can pastors go for guidance in this area? One excellent resource is the Theology of Work Project.

Officially formed in 2007 under the leadership of Dr. Haddon Robinson, the mission of the Theology of Work Project is "to bring together scholars and practitioners in a coalition aimed at building consensus around fundamental truths contained in a Theology of Work.”

Working with biblical scholars, theologians, ethicists, economists, workplace practitioners, and workplace ministers, The TOW Project is currently writing papers on what the Bible itself has to say about fundamental principles related to work.

So far, they have completed studies on Revelation, Colossians and Philemon. Their goal is to produce such studies for every book of the Bible.

The ultimate aim of The TOW Project is "to produce a Theology of Work that is as broadly acceptable as possible, being relevant for every kind of workplace around the world, and meeting the approval of the full spectrum of traditions within the orthodox/historical Christian faith."

The great things is, the writings of The TOW Project are in plain English, so they are understandable not only to theologians, but busy practitioners in the workplace as well.

Check out their study of Colossians/Philemon at http://files.inspyred.com/webfiles/74116/ColossiansPhilemonandWorkLeadArticleapproved2010-01-11.pdf

To learn more about The TOW Project, visit http://www.theologyofwork.org/

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lady Gaga, Steve Jobs and Glenn Beck

In Time magazine's list of "the world's 100 most influential people" for 2010, you will find Lady Gaga, Steve Jobs and Glenn Beck. You will not find the Pope, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, or any other significant church leader.

While it is true that church leaders don't have as much influence in today's culture as they used to, when it comes to influencing the culture within a local church, nobody carries as much influence as the senior pastor. No hour of the week carries as much weight as the large group meeting of the gathered church. Usually this takes place on Sunday morning, where bulletins are given out, ushers seat people, sermons are preached, and offering plates are passed.

What the senior pastor says and does during the large weekly gathering shapes the culture of the local church like no other voice. That's why I'm convinced senior pastors hold the keys to effective worklife discipleship in the life of any local church.

Last week I mentioned a survey I did of 20 senior pastors in the Seattle area whereby I discovered many pastors are not satisfied with their effectiveness in equipping congregants to influence in the Monday-through-Friday workplace. Many of them want to do a better job in this area.

While I didn't expect to find it, I think I found a clue as to why there is such a gap between the pastor's desire to do see more results in the area of workplace discipleship, and the degree of dissatisfaction many of them feel about how effective they are in this particular arena.

The clue is this: When I asked the pastors how often they gave a Sunday morning message that "dealt primarily with the specific topic of work or work-related issues," I often heard responses like, "every Sunday."

Nearly one-third of the pastors I interviewed told me their sermons applied to "all of life," and therefore they were addressing worklife discipleship in virtually every message.

I couldn't bring myself to pop their bubbles. After all, the purpose of my interviewing was not to comment about their answers. My purpose was to hear what they were thinking.

However, since the desire of most pastors is to be more effective, I do have some thoughts to share along these lines.

To be continued.